Hairstyle, hair type or hair texture historically associated with race –such as braids, locks, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots and afros – is now protected in Wake County’s employee discrimination policy. The move comes after the Wake County Board of Commissioners today voted unanimously to support County Manager David Ellis’ recommendation to add natural hair and hairstyles to the policy.
“I asked Manager Ellis to look into this matter, because choosing to wear your hair in a ‘protective hairstyle’ intended to maintain hair health has routinely been seen as ‘unkempt, unhygienic, messy or disruptive,’ which is untrue. No one should be forced to choose between their livelihood and their cultural identity and/or hair health,” said Wake County Commissioner Shinica Thomas. “The decision to wear one’s hair in a particular style is highly personal, and the reasons behind that decision may differ for each individual. By explicitly stating it in our policy, we protect our current and future employees from any potential bias.”
The resolution adopted by the board notes that barring natural or protective hairstyles commonly worn by people of African descent, as well as people of Jewish, Latinx or Native American descent, is a form of racial discrimination. By including these hairstyles in the county’s employee discrimination policy, the county is taking the firm position that depriving staff of opportunities based on hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles will not be tolerated.
“Wake County is taking a stand on this issue, and we hope other municipal organizations and private businesses will follow our lead,” said Wake County Manager David Ellis. “Celebrating the diversity of our team is important, and including natural hairstyles in our discrimination policy shows our employees that, no matter how they choose to wear their hair, we value the contribution they make to our organization.”
Under North Carolina General Statute, the county manager is the personnel officer and can create and enforce county personnel policy. This policy supports the county’s core values of embracing diversity, making it better and acting with integrity.